Eating in Maui Part
II - Tasted on June 1, 2005
(Continued from the previous post.)
— I really was prepared to
accept pineapple as my one positive food experience on the island (and a
damn good one at that) when we got hungry standing in line to see Episode
III: Revenge of the Sith. Yes, we were in Maui, but
Debbie hadn't seen the movie so we hauled out to some strip mall near
the airport and bought matinee tickets to see the latest (and final?)
Star Wars. And Debbie of course was hungry. She needed something quick.
There was a row of seemingly crappy little non-descript ethnic restaurants in this
outdoor mall. One of them was
Thailand Cuisine II. Just the kind of
place you'd expect to serve Thai food bordering on fast food. The
Chinese place next to them was serving food from troughs under heat
lamps. I didn't have high expectations. But what we ate that day, and
then again two days later when we went back for a proper lunch, was
pretty damn good Thai food.
What got our attention was the satay. We started off
with one of each variety they offered -
shrimp. The chicken was
thick and juicy, with slight grill marks on the sides and incredibly
buttery and savory. The beef was cut slightly thinner, had the same
buttery quality, and also had this incredible subtle curry-like flavor.
The shrimp was almost indescribable. Think shrimp-textured butter on a
stick formed in the shape of shrimps. Everything was super delicious.
We got the
fresh rolls (called Fresh Summer Rolls on the menu). I typically
think of these as Vietnamese but I honestly don't know their origin. And
given that these were light, tight, and fresh (hmmm...) with a nice hot
and sour sauce I didn't care. We also dug into the
Beef Salad (Yum Nuer) which was super spicy, robust, and had the
unmistakable evidence of fish sauce. Yummy, The hot and cold contrast
between the beef and vegetables was excellent as well.
Chicken Larb was quite good as well. A very simple plate of ground
chicken with cabbage pieces serving as scoops for the chicken. The
ground chicken was super savory and juicy. The
Thai Red Duck Curry was also a relatively simple dish but the
contrast between the creamy smooth coconut curry and the extra
crispy skin on the duck, not to mention the meaty duck pieces, was
really quite enjoyable. The portion was small in a good way and the dish
was just a pleasure to eat. But all the dishes were a pleasure to eat. A
simple pleasure. The
Pad Thai (we got ours with shrimp) was no exception. There was
nothing unique about it, but it was well done.
I know it's unfair of me to make judgments about an
entire island's food options based on a few days' visit, and eating it a
handful of places most of which were in tourist central. But my
disappointment is less about Maui in particular (and to be clear,
there's obviously hope as the tiny Thai place we stumbled into in a
strip mall was quite delicious) and more about my own personal inability
to pick good places to eat blind. I suppose of course, that's why this
site exists in the first place, to try and cut through the standard sea
of recommendations and just find the good stuff. And if you gave me a
recommendation before I went and I didn't take you up on it, please
accept my apologies. (I've heard disappointment from at least two people
on this front.) But I admit that I was inundated with recommendations
and my filter is simply not very good.
I'm embarassed that it's taken me so long to learn this
lesson on more than an intellectual level, but I promise, from now on I
take recommendations from people I know and eat with, not strangers, big
websites (and some small ones), I won't be swayed by what "lots of
people are saying". And most importantly if we can't find anything, we
will just follow the locals and eat where they eat.